Anxiety & Panics Attacks
Can I Befriend my Pain?
One of the barriers people often face with being mindful is the idea of being in the moment, when that moment is terrible. I’ll admit that this is the reason I struggled to see the benefit in Mindfulness for a long time when I first found out about it. At the time, I was dealing with high levels of anxiety and panic attacks almost everyday, and the idea of not struggling with it just seemed ridiculous to me. I was feeling anxious, and in my mind, anxiety was a negative experience that I “shouldn’t” feel. And so I would battle, I’d fight, I’d push it away, and I’ll be honest: that never really worked.
Here’s the problem: resisting and struggling in that way often made things worse. In February 2019, I suffered my first bereavement of a close family member as an adult, and I struggled with the emotion I was feeling. I felt overwhelmed with sadness and pain, and my instinct was to try and push it away. I spent a few hours trying to mentally go somewhere else and pretend it wasn’t happening. When I woke up the next morning feeling genuinely dreadful, my thoughts told me “I shouldn’t be feeling this way”, and I resisted it some more. It was like a huge battle going on in my mind. But then I remembered all those years with anxiety and remembered how resistance had never helped me. So this time, I accepted it. I accepted that I’d just lost someone very special to me, I accepted that I was bound to feel some negative emotion, and I accepted that it was ok to feel however I felt in that moment. Instead of resisting my pain and looking at it negatively, I started to turn towards the pain, accepting it’s presence and viewing it as a symbol of my love for my family member. This doesn’t mean that the pain suddenly went away; of course it didn’t, I was grieving. But I felt more at peace, accepting the presence of the pain put an end to that mental battle and allowed me to feel whatever I needed to feel to start coming to terms with my loss.
That’s the benefit of being in the moment. Being in the moment gives us a greater awareness of how we are feeling/thinking. Then, once we are aware, we can choose how we respond. Sometimes befriending our pain, instead of struggling with it, can really take a weight off our shoulders. We all experience a range of emotions and thoughts: some negative, some positive, some neutral. That in itself is actually an amazing thing, and for me, it is a huge part of being human. So during those difficult times in life, maybe use your awareness of the present moment to notice your reaction to it and maybe ask yourself, “Can I befriend my pain?”
If you’d like to learn more about any of these ideas I’ve talked about here, please consider coming along to one of our free Mindfulness for Everyday courses.
By Bethan Jones
Course Wellbeing Practitioner